Muscle Strains in Dogs

Muscle Strains in Dogs: Causes, Signs, and Diagnosis

Muscle strains in dogs are traumatic orthopedic injuries of the muscles and tendons. Muscle strains in dogs are prevalent among canine athletes and working dogs. 

Muscle overstretching or overuse, myositis, and myopathy cause muscle strains. Excess body weight, lack of conditioning, sedentary lifestyle, and old age are risk factors for muscle strain. 

Pain, swelling, stiffness, lameness, reduced physical activity, and vocalization are signs of a dog's strained muscle. The intensity of the symptoms depends on the severity of the strain. 

Cage rest, analgesics, supplements, compression, thermal therapy, laser therapy, massage, ultrasound, and rehabilitation exercises are treatment options for a dog muscle strain. CBD Mobility oil is an excellent natural addition to the dog strain management strategy. 

Prevent a dog pulled muscle by keeping the dog conditioned and within a healthy weight limit and having warm-up and cool-down periods when exercising. 

What is Muscle Strain in Dogs?

Muscle strain in dogs is a traumatic orthopedic injury that causes muscle damage with or without tendon damage. Muscle strains are a direct consequence of an injury or occur secondary to other muscle conditions. 

Sprain is used interchangeably with muscle strains, but they are different. Another name for strains is pulls. Sprains damage ligaments when a joint twists incorrectly.

Strains are among dogs' most frequently reported injuries, especially in canine athletes, racing, hunting, herding, and other working dogs. 

Canine athletes experience similar muscle disorders as human athletes,” suggests a study, “Muscle Disorders and Rehabilitation in Canine Athletes,” issued in TVNA Small Animal Practice in 2002. 

Muscle pulls are underdiagnosed because minor cases go unnoticed. Hip and thigh muscles, particularly the iliopsoas muscle, are most commonly affected. 

How do Muscle Strains Differ from Muscle Sprains in Dogs?

Muscle strains differ from muscle sprains in dogs because they affect different structures. Muscle strains occur when dogs overstretch or overpressure a muscle or a tendon. Tendons are connective tissue bands that attach muscles to bones. 

Sprains occur when dogs stretch the ligaments attached to a joint. Ligaments are strong connective tissue bands linking two bones together.  

Strains and sprains are orthopedic soft tissue injuries. Signs of strains and muscle sprains in dogs include reluctance to walk or play, irritability, sensitivity to touch, and vocalization.  

How Common Is Muscle Strain in Dogs?

Muscle strain is common in dogs. Strains in dogs occur constantly and range from mild to moderate to severe. 

Mild strains have subtle clinical manifestations and go unnoticed in many cases. Dogs are very good at hiding pain, making it difficult for owners to notice signs of lesser muscle strains. 

Muscle strain injuries are an under-diagnosed cause or contributor to acute hind limb lameness, explains a study, “Diagnosis and Treatment of Hind Limb Muscle Strain Injuries in 22 Dogs,” published in Veterinary and Comparative Orthopaedics and Traumatology in 2005. 

Can Muscle Strains Happen to Dogs of Any Age?

Yes, muscle strains can happen to dogs of any age. The risk of strains, sprains, and other soft tissue orthopedic injuries is greater in older dogs. 

Muscles change with age, predisposing dogs to injuries. Muscle fibers lose density and become less flexible as the dog gets older. 

Age is not the only risk factor for muscle strains in dogs. Obesity, sedentary lifestyle, and lack of condition are other risk factors for muscle strains. 

What Joint Muscles Are Affected by Strains in Dogs?

The joint muscles affected by strains in dogs are the bi-arthrodial muscles. A bi-arthrodial dog muscle is a muscle that crosses two joints. 

The iliopsoas joint muscle is the most prone to strains. The iliopsoas fuses the psoas and iliacus muscles and runs from the underside of the lower spine to the upper part of the thigh bone. 

The iliopsoas muscle brings the hind legs forward and flexes the hip. Iliopsoas injuries develop when the muscle contracts while the hip is extended. 

Working dogs and canine athletes participating in high-impact sports are at a high risk of strains of the iliopsoas muscle. Outward splaying of the hind legs is a likely cause in pet dogs.  

Bbi-arthrodial biceps brachii and gastrocnemius are other muscles affected in dogs affected by strain-related injuries. The biceps brachii muscle is in the front legs, bridging the shoulder and elbow joint, while the gastrocnemius is the primary calf muscle on the back legs. 

Which Dog Breeds Are Most Likely to Get Muscle Strains?

The dog breeds most likely to get muscle strains are listed below. 

  • Doberman Pinschers: Doberman Pinschers are susceptible to two types of myositis associated with muscle strains. The two issues are myositis ossificans and polymyositis. 
  • Hungarian Vizslas: Hungarian Vizslas is a specific, non-infectious, and autoimmune-mediated inflammation of the muscles that is highly prevalent among Hungarian Vizslas. 
  • Labrador Retrievers: Black and yellow Laboradors are predisposed to Labrador Retriever myopathy, increasing the risk of muscle strains. 
  • Great Danes: Great Dane myopathy is an inherited muscle disease predisposing members of the Great Dane breed to muscle strain injuries. 
  • Racing Greyhounds: Rhabdomyolysis or external myopathy is prevalent among racing Greyhounds and occurs when the strained muscles are deprived of oxygen.  

What Causes Pulled Muscle in Dogs?

The causes of pulled muscle in dogs are listed below. 

  • Overstretch or Overuse: Overstretch or overuse is the most common cause of dog strains. Accidents occur when dogs engage in high-impact activities such as agility tests, roughhousing, running, and jumping.  Vigorous wrestling with another dog, going splay-legged while running, and suddenly chasing a cat are examples of high-risk situations. 
  • Myositis (Muscle Inflammation): Dogs develop various myositis types that increase the risk of strains. Myositis ossificans is a muscle inflammation in which bony deposits of non-cancerous origin deposit on muscles and connective tissue. The condition is believed to be related to the blood clotting disorder called von Willebrand’s disease and is prevalent in Doberman Pinschers. Polymyositis is a non-infectious inflammation that affects all muscles in the dog’s body. Polymyositis has an immune-mediated background and is prevalent in large breed dogs, like Vizslas, Newfoundlands, and Boxers. 
  • Myopathy (Muscle Disease): The top three myopathies leading to pulled muscles in dogs are Labrador Retriever myopathy, Great Dane myopathy, and external myopathy. Labrador Retriever myopathy affects black and yellow Labradors, while Great Dane myopathy occurs in Great Danes. The two conditions have an unknown origin but are believed to have a genetic component. External myopathy or rhabdomyolysis develops after strenuous physical activity, likely due to a lack of oxygen supply to the muscles. External myopathy affects racing Greyhounds and working dogs. 

Do Muscle Strains Affect the Mobility of A Dog?

Yes, muscle strains affect the mobility of a dog. A pulled muscle is painful and results in reduced or altered movements. 

Dogs with muscle strains exhibit lameness, a reluctance to put full weight on a specific leg, or decreased physical activity. Dogs with pulled muscles avoid certain activities, such as jumping, using stairs, and getting up from sitting or sitting down from a standing position. 

When Should You Seek Veterinary Care for A Dog with Muscle Strains Symptoms?

You should seek veterinary care for a dog with muscle strain symptoms immediately. Strains are not emergencies but painful and harm the dog’s quality of life. 

Call the vet and schedule an appointment if the dog shows signs of strain. Strain Indicators include varying lameness degrees, pain in the legs, a painful lower back, avoidance of physical activity, and reluctance to jump or use stairs. 

Muscle strains heal independently in some cases, but the strains progress and complicate in others, so it is critical to see a veterinarian. 

What are the Common Symptoms of Pulled Muscles in Dogs?

The common symptoms of pulled muscles in dogs are listed below. 

  • Reduced Activity: Sudden reduction in mobility and disinterest in daily activities are common symptoms in dogs with pulled or strained muscles. 
  • Vocalization: Muscle strains are painful. Dogs manage discomfort well, but if the pain is severe, they vocalize through crying, whimpering, whining, and moaning. 
  • Swelling: Swelling is an accompanying symptom associated with traumatic injuries, such as pulled muscles. The swelling indicates the location of the injury, and the swollen area is warm.  
  • Stiffness: Walking with stiff hind legs is one of the main dog pulled muscle in back leg symptoms. The stiffness of the front legs points to front leg muscle strains. 

How do You Tell if Your Dog Has Muscle Strains?

You tell if your dog has muscle strains based on clinical signs and symptoms. Lameness and sudden reluctance to be physically active are the early indicators of muscle strains.

Dogs hide pain instinctively, which makes things harder for the owner with milder muscle pulls. Pay close attention to the dog’s behavior to notice subtle changes. 

Call the veterianrian and schedule an appointment if unsure of what is happening with the dog. The vet examines the dog and diagnoses whether a muscle strain is the culprit. 

What are the Signs of Muscle Strains in Dogs?

The signs of muscle strains in dogs are listed below. 

  • Lameness: The early signs of muscle strains in dogs include lameness or limping. Lameness is refusing to bear weight on one leg. Dogs with strains are mildly or severely lame depending on the location and severity of the muscle pull. 
  • Avoiding the Stairs: Dogs with strains are in pain when walking up and down stairs. Standing at the edge of the stairs and refusing to use them is a sign of stair avoidance. 
  • Difficulty Getting Up or Down: Trouble getting up or down from standing or sitting is a clear indicator of pain and is commonly seen in dogs with muscle strains. 
  • Reluctance to Jump: Dogs with muscle pulls refuse to jump on and off furniture and other elevated surfaces, such as car trunks. 

How Long Can a Dog Live with A Pulled Muscle?

A dog can live a full life capacity of 10 to 13 years with a pulled muscle. Muscle strains are not life-threatening and do not affect the dog’s longevity. 

Dogs recover from muscle strains within two weeks and are safe to resume normal activities. Severe muscle strains in dogs require up to six weeks to heal fully. 

Dogs are not allowed to be physically active and must always walk on leashes during the recovery phase. Mentally stimulating games are recommended to avoid boredom and ensure a high quality of life. 

Does CBD Mobility Oil Help Relieve Muscle Strain Pain in Dogs?

Yes, CBD Mobility Oil helps muscle strain pain in dogs. CBD, or cannabidiol, is a natural hemp extract with potent anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties. The anti-inflammatory effect reduces inflammation, which indirectly reduces pain. The analgesic feature acts directly against the pain. 

The Honest Paws CBD Mobility Oil is formulated to relieve pain and inflammation and promote mobility. The oil is enriched with turmeric and has four strengths for dogs of all sizes. 

What are the Treatments for Pulled Muscles in Dogs?

The treatments for pulled muscles in dogs are listed below. 

  • Cage Rest: Cage rests refers to restricted physical activity and is imperative for dogs with muscle strains. The dog is placed in a size-appropriate, safe cage to rest as much as possible and taken out on a leash only for potting purposes. 
  • Non-Steroid Anti-Inflammatory Drugs: Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) treat pulled muscles in dogs. NSAIDs reduce inflammation and help relieve pain. 
  • Supplements: Antioxidants, cannabidiol, turmeric, and other mobility-supporting natural ingredients speed up recovery in dogs with muscle pulls. 
  • Compression: Orthopedic braces compress and pressure the injured area of the leg and support the dog’s limb. 
  • Thermal Therapy: Thermal therapy involves using hot or cold temperatures to decrease inflammation and relieve pain. Cold therapy is ideal in the early muscle pull phases to minimize pain and swelling, and heat therapy in the later stages to increase blood supply and healing. 
  • Laser Therapy: The therapeutic laser uses infrared light energy and penetrates the tissue to support pulled muscle healing. The procedure is painless, and dogs tolerate it well.
  • Therapeutic Massage: Therapeutic massage is a manual therapy in which a trained professional massages the region around the pulled muscle to relieve tension. 
  • Therapeutic Ultrasound: The treatment uses ultrasonic waves, which penetrate and vibrate the damaged tissues, supporting healing. 
  • Rehabilitation Exercises: Rehabilitation exercises are a beneficial option for treating dog-pulled muscles in the back leg. They are done with the help of a professional and depend on the pulled muscle.  

Are There Any Medications Commonly Prescribed for Muscle Strains in Dogs?

Yes, there are medications commonly prescribed for muscle strains in dogs. The medications of choice are non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs. 

Non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs are best suited for treating strained muscles because they reduce inflammation and pain. 

Frequently prescribed NSAIDs are carprofen (Novox or Rimadyl), meloxicam (Melox), firocoxib (Previcox), deracoxib (Deramaxx), and grapiprant (Glliprant). 

Long-term use of non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs has a high risk of side effects and requires close monitoring. Never give human NSAIDs to dogs since some human NSAIDs are toxic to pets. 

How is Pulled Muscle Diagnosed in Dogs?

A pulled muscle is diagnosed in dogs using physical examination, history collection, and diagnostic tests. 

The vet takes the dog’s history and considers its breed, weight, and lifestyle as risk factors for muscle strains. The physical examination includes a full body evaluation, focusing on the affected leg and the dog’s gait. 

The main diagnostic test is an X-ray of the dog’s strained leg. X-rays do not assess muscles, but local inflammatory changes indicate specific injuries. The X-ray helps rule out other conditions with similar manifestations. 

Advanced imaging techniques, like ultrasonography, thermal imaging, CT scans, or MRIs, are performed on athlete dogs participating in canine sports. 

Can Muscle Strains in Dogs Resolve without Surgery?

Yes, muscle strains in dogs can resolve without surgery. Medical management is successful in cases of minor to moderate strains. Treatment includes non-steroid anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) combined with compressions, bandages, rest, and physical therapy. 

Surgery is performed on dogs with severe strains and muscle tears. The surgery aims to restore the muscle’s normal function while lessening the pain and inflammation. 

What Measures to Prevent Muscle Strains in Dogs?

To prevent muscle strain in dogs, follow the 5 steps listed below. 

  1. Warm Up the Dog Before Exercise. Warming up before exercising effectively reduces dog muscle strain risk. Stretching raises the muscles’ temperature, improving efficiency and flexibility, and widens the blood vessels, ensuring proper oxygen supply to the muscles.  
  2. Create a Balanced Exercise Regimen. Make an exercise schedule and avoid excess physical activity on specific days. The term “weekend warriors” describes dogs with sedentary lifestyles during the week and exercise excessively on the weekend, increasing the risk of muscle injuries and strains. 
  3. Adapt the Exercise Pace. Pay attention to the dog’s exhaustion levels and adjust the pace as necessary. Dogs get excited easily and disregard their capacity when having fun. 
  4. Avoid Exercising on Uneven Ground. Do not let the dog run or get wild on uneven ground. Rough terrains are hazardous and put the dog at risk of muscle strains and other orthopedic injuries. 
  5. Maintain a Healthy Weight. Soft tissue injuries to the muscles and tendons are more common in overweight and obese dogs because of the extra pressure on the body. Maintain the dog within the normal body weight limit to prevent muscle-straining accidents.